Microsoft is Changing the Windows Insider Program

Posted on June 15, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 14 Comments

In the first major change since Amanda Langowski took over, the Windows Insider program will adopt a new release model based on quality.

I know. I laughed out loud when I read that the first time too. But stick with me here.

“We are transitioning and converting our current ring model, based on the frequency of builds, to a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts,” Langowski writes. “In addition to this change, Insiders will also find similar offering names and expectations across Windows and Office programs and soon Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams.”

I had kind of forgotten that the rings system was originally based on the frequency of build releases, since Microsoft had changed it so much that none of the rings actually map to that anymore. But with the Insider program now capable of testing three completely different things—the next version of Windows (Slow ring), the next version of Windows after that (Fast ring), and just app and servicing updates (Release Preview), I do agree that it’s outgrown the ring system. Or at least stopped even pretending it makes any sense anymore.

The new system will feature three channels instead of rings. But aside from the name changes, it seems to work much like the most recent rendition of the rings system.

The Dev channel will replace the Fast ring and provide highly technical users with the earliest access to new features. These builds will not necessarily map to any particular Windows 10 version. Instead, “new features and OS improvements in this channel will show up in future Windows 10 releases when they’re ready and may be delivered as full OS build updates or servicing releases.” Which means, of course, that they can map to a particular coming Windows 10 version, but whatever.

The Beta channel will replace the Slow ring and is aimed at users who want a more reliable peek at coming new features. These builds are tied to a particular Windows 10 release, so I assume we’ll see the 20H2 testing move into the Beta channel any day now.

The Release Preview channel replaces the Release Preview ring, and it will still provide access to the next version of Windows 10 “with advanced quality updates and certain key features.” The new bit? These builds are supported by Microsoft, so companies that wish to preview and validate upcoming Windows 10 releases before broad deployment within their organization can now do so safely.

Two interesting additional points. Microsoft is leaving open the possibility of adding more channels in the future; I wonder if this means we’ll see a channel for WIndows 10X. And these channels will align with Office so that testers in both can align their experiences accordingly.

PCs enrolled in the Windows Insider program will be moved to the corresponding channel automatically, so there’s nothing to do.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Microsoft is Changing the Windows Insider Program”

  1. scottib62

    So will the podcast become First Channel Daily?

  2. bart

    Paul, one thing you don't mention is that frequencies of each channel can now be adjusted. In other words, we *should* see more beta channel builds to improve quality . The current Slow Ring is, well...., slow. Too slow in my opinion. The May 2020 Update shows exactly this. Not enough actual testing of software which is made generally available. With the current Ring testing, it is all (Fast) or nothing (RP). Slow is the wasteland in between.

    Also, and this is probably the main reason for the channels, is that the Beta channel is tailored for you Paul. You will know exactly which features will be available in the upcoming release, so you can adjust your book accordingly :)

  3. beckoningeagle

    Having a supported channel is a good thing.

  4. will

    This was what I thought they should do when they did the Edge Insider Program. Follow the same naming system and it makes since!

    The only thing missing is Canary but that would be internal to MS and some very select people I would presume

  5. anderb

    Which channel will my USB printer work on?

  6. DaveHelps

    Interesting. A few weeks ago I got an email asking why I’m in the insider program but do not have any active insider PCs. For me it was that my test machine is currently a “production” asset supporting remote work. I wonder how many other sysadmin types said that if it’s support vs. Insider, support wins.

  7. bluvg

    Just bring back the Test group already. A former MSFT-ian explains in detail exactly why this needs to happen in some fashion: https ://

  8. JacobTheDev

    Seems like a good change to me, makes it much more clear what you're signing up for.

  9. irfaanwahid

    We were informed about these and other changes in the MVP Summit held in March.

  10. chrishilton1

    Will you be adjusting First Ring Daily, to something more appropriate like First Channel Daily!

  11. ghostrider

    I don't think the Insiders program has worked out anywhere near how Microsoft expected. Enthusiasm will dwindle quickly from people wanting do be at the cutting edge when they're ignored or treated pretty poorly. Microsoft expect a lot for 'free' from Insiders, but when these people do find problems, MS also chose what to listen to and what to ignore. This sounds more like MS shuffling the deck-chairs around more than anything - sort of a re-branding rather than fundamental change.

  12. epguy40

    check out Ed Bott's recent reaction in his recent ZDNet article (one of the headline reads "One release channel isn't enough. Microsoft just rearranged the Windows Insider Program, but the company missed an opportunity to help mainstream customers who are unwittingly signing up as beta testers with each new release."):